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The profession of a police officer experiences hard times in the United States due to some rapid changes that face society and shift expectations in politics. In the American context, policing had to adapt to the time of increased violence in the 1960s; 20 years later when the cocaine splitting exploded in the cities, the situation repeated (Travis, 2013). Huge criticism from various perspectives influenced the status of police. This criticism considered the general tension in the society, opposition to law enforcers, and issues in communities of racial minorities, the role of police in the political surveillance, and its failure to decrease the crime rate in the country. The most appropriate method for eradicating the old professionalism is introducing a new form of it. Although a community policing is an invaluable basis for a new professionalization, it is not able to inspire the police system to deal with the political corruption, financial fraud, and the spread of arms. New professionalism requires developing the following commitments: accountability, legitimacy, innovation, and national coherence. Professional policing is responsible for the crime rate, public protection, police conduct, and the cost. Police professionalism maintains innovation and contributes to the coherency in the regional, national, and international networks. The current paper explores the police professionalism that requires an establishment of a civil police institution, which is to be responsible for the inner security of the state, unlike the military force.

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Historical Changes in the U.S. Policing

The First Municipal Police Forces in the U.S. Cities and Their Responsibilities

The American policing followed the same development process as in the UK. At the times of early colonies, policing was organized in two forms: informal (the Watch) and communal, namely a private-for-profit policing that was called “The Big Stick” (Potter, 2013). The informal system consisted of community volunteers, who had to warn of the approaching danger. However, the created night watch did not provide an efficient crime control as the guards usually drank or slept on duty. Although it was theoretically a voluntary form of policing, most volunteers attempted to avoid the military service or engaged in such duties as a kind of punishment. In other words, it was a system of official law enforcement officers, who had to supervise the activities of the night alternation.

Such informal methods of policing were used till the 1830s. In 1838, the first municipal police force was founded in the USA (Potter, 2013). In the 1880s, the major American cities had municipal police forces; police officers were full-time employees that were accountable to the governmental authority. In the southern part of the USA, policing existed as a formal slave patrol; its main goal was to provide an organized terror in order to restrain any slave revolts and maintain discipline among slave-workers. Therefore, the development of local bureaucratic police departments promoted the urbanization, and the constable system could not keep order any more. The increasing crime rate in the form of public drunkenness and prostitution was more observable and, unfortunately, less controlled. Thus, the American police forces emerged as a response to the local disorder; however, initially, the system possessed the same characteristics of being notoriously corrupt and terribly brutal.

The Focus of Municipal Police Departments on Strike-Breaking in the Period after the Civil War

After the Civil War, departments of municipal policing focused on the phenomenon of strike-breaking. Using public workers for satisfying private economic interests and applying the legal force against organized toilers was considered a cost-effective and politically useful strategy as the issue of the rights of labor was associated with the crime. Strike-breaking existed in two forms: the forced riot squad with the help of extreme violence and a more subtle form, under which municipal police performed a staggering number of arrests with the view to warning workers’ organizations beforehand (Potter, 2013). Thus, the first police departments in the USA had to deal with the described issues. The police had to wear a uniform and carry firearms; they could use force within the clearly determined powers.

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A Variety of Services Provided by Police Departments in the Machine Era

Municipal police departments had taken deep roots in the political affairs of big political machines by the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the next century, the police acted as “the enforcement arm of organized crime” almost in every large city (Potter, 2013, part 4, para.1). In addition to the law enforcement, departments provided a range of community services in the machine era. For instance, in the cities of Boston and New York, they observed some infectious epidemics (including cholera) and sheltered the homeless.

The Prohibition of 1919-1933 had worsened the situation with the spread of the public drunkenness in urban areas. As a result, the criminal situation became more organized, opened, and blatant. Lawlessness on the streets became dangerous. Organized crime would emerge from shadows and cooperate with the corrupt police. By the end of 1933, the corruption of the U.S. policing had become almost total (Potter, 2013). The outrages committed by municipal police departments in the next years demonstrated the need for urgent reform. Firstly, reform efforts acquired the form of investigative commissions, which would monitor the political and police corruption (Potter, 2013). The earliest example was the Lenox Committee; it was created in 1894 with the view to decreasing the level of the police corruption that was related to the prostitution and gambling, as well as to investigating any attempts of the police extortion (Potter, 2013). Similar commissions investigated cases of police corruption in other U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Louisville, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. For instance, the Christopher Commission in Los Angeles investigated the police misconduct that was associated with numerous issues of the excess of power and racism in the department. Hence, except reporting about the corruption level and informing the public about it, these commissions also had a certain influence on the police practices. Some scholars also assert that such commissions had contributed to the police reform that was later commenced by police administrators, as well as the political change in the country.

Police Professionalism as a Way of Enhancing Its Effectiveness and Reforming the Institution of Policing

Supporting professional policing in terms of respecting human rights requires creating a new worldwide program of reform. In 2011, Aryeh Neier and Chris Stone, the members of advisory boards of the Open Society Foundations encouraged the global community to bring this idea to fruition (Stone, 2012). Although the organization advocates human rights by initiating the reform and spreading the information about the crime and effort of the police to tackle it, Neier and Stone hope that researchers, national governments, and police organizations can develop a clear notion of the new professionalism.

The formation of selection standards, training of new co-workers, provision of policing in the form of an effective and holistic civil service, and the encouragement of progress as an outcome of testing are examples of the most significant reforms that have recently taken place in police organizations. These achievements were supposed to lessen the political grasp; in other words, the officers would not owe their jobs to political operatives anymore. In the light of the reform of police agencies at the beginning of the 20th century, one can clearly see that its effect was not sufficient even taking into account the success of the agencies in Berkeley and Cincinnati. The most considerable step in the improvement of the police professionalism was made after the Wickersham Commission 1931 report that provided a detailed description of certain cases of the police misconduct and excess of jurisdiction (“Police,” 2008). This document was the first national investigation of the U.S. criminal justice system; thus, it had a meaningful influence on the advancement of the reform movement in the country.

By the 1950s, the police professionalism had been widely advertised. It was considered a perfect way of enhancing the performance and effectiveness of officers and refining the institution of policing as a whole. Wilson set the global standard for the movement of professionalism by publishing the book the Police Administration; it became a foundation for the new police professionalization (Potter, 2013). He advocated the centralization of policing with an emphasis on a military-like organization and discipline. Main objectives of the police administration were the crime control and the effectiveness of its provision. However, such police professionalism did not become a panacea, which Wilson envisaged, as the professionalization increased the public tension and prejudice against the police. In such a manner, his model of professionalism had not done anything for eradicating sexist and racist practices that had existed in police departments since their creation in the 1830s.

The beginning of the twentieth century brought innovations to the history of policing. Some new technologies, including the patrol car, two-way radio, and the telephone, had a significant effect on policing (“Police,” 2008). Such technological changes influenced the provision of public services and the administration of the police personnel. Thus, the movement of professionalism brought effective changes into the training of officers and set specific management principles. Now, professional police officers performed both the law enforcement and prevention of crimes via the random patrol and rapid response to emergency calls.

Review of the Police Status in the United States and Worldwide in the Light of Promoting Professionalism

In the recent years, global policing has undergone some substantial changes. Although the scope of resources available to the police services has been considerably enhanced, the tasks and threats, which the police needs to manage, have increased, as well. Moreover, the social context of policing has also changed. Along with the broad status of the police services, the range of issues that the police has to manage has significantly diversified. The growth of public expectations and police priorities have brought new responsibilities and functions, which require more skills and application of various working styles. As a result of this development, the modern global policing, including the U.S. system, comprises civil emergencies and counter-terrorism to anti-social behavior, child protection, management of sex offenders, and community policing (Flanagan, 2008). Thus, following the path of the continuous police improvement is of exceptional importance as it can create a bright future for the whole humanity.

When considering the police status in the developed countries, one has to pay extra attention to the modern policing that is carried out in close partnership with a range of local agencies, including special councils. For instance, the success of the Neighbourhood Policing (the UK) is based on the effective approach that focuses on building confidence by combating minor crimes that can cause significant harm to humans (Flanagan, 2008). Therefore, the public should be an essential aspect of policing in any country in the world. The reasons for choosing this approach are not only the primary goals of providing people’s protection and improving the public trust in law enforcers on the basis of their achievements but also ensuring an effective cooperation between the police service and respective community.

Police professionalism is a complex set of skills and knowledge. As expected, professional police officers operate successfully within a range of conflicting and demanding duties if they possess required ethical qualities and competencies that can compensate their nonprofessional traits (Flanagan, 2008). Hence, developing a modern and professional model of policing with the view to ensuring respectful relationships in the state and among its citizens will ensure a safe future of the society as a whole.

The Need for the Professional and Highly Skilled Workforce Is Essential in the Modern Policing in the United States

Over the last century, researchers have debated the issue of police and its professionalism. Sklansky argues about the current police reform that is dominated by an ideal of professionalism (2011). According to Walker, the term of professionalism is associated with general guidelines for the performance and development (2014). Green and Gates identify professionalization as “the transformation of occupation to profession” (2014, p.75). Nevertheless, this definition of professionalization is not complete as it is a wide-ranging and continually changing notion, which still has some set characteristics. Walker admits that the professional knowledge and autonomy, as well as the service ideal, are the most important dimensions in estimating and determining the status of a certain profession (2014). Thus, a debate on whether the police has already reached its professional status or will achieve it in the nearest future has continued.

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When considering the professional classification from another viewpoint, some researchers advocate specific dimensions. In such a manner, a systematic body of theory, code of ethics, community sanction, professional authority, and professional culture are essential dimensions that were suggested by Greenwood (Carlan & Lewis, 2009). The systematic body of theory that is based on the intellectual prowess ensures that professionals possess all required competence for performing complicated operations and tasks. Codes of ethics are of the greatest importance as they “deter misconduct through aligning professionals’ loyalties with the larger occupation instead of unfaltering obedience to an organization” (Carlan & Lewis, 2009, p. 41). In turn, the community sanction authorizes public control over specialized training centers, as well as admission requirements; thus, authorized bodies has to check the lack of competence and morality in colleagues. Professional authority allows officers to apply their experience in the decision-making process considering the overall well-being of the served communities. Finally, the professional culture has to facilitate basic values and norms that are required for the normal human life.

The implementation of professionalism requires achieving specific goals. Hall determined the five most significant criteria of the professionalization: professional attitude, public service, self-regulation, sense of calling, and autonomy. According to his scale, police officers have to have an average professional attitude (Carlan & Lewis, 2009). They also are supposed to possess an appropriate self-regulation mechanism, sense of calling, professional organizations, and public service. However, police officers have to possess a limited desire for autonomy that is the basic factor in determining one’s professionalism. Thus, the studies conclude that policing is somewhat different from common professional standards.

Higher Education as a Significant Tool of Police Professionalism

A quality education is considered a heart of any profession; in line, the current policing requires a highly skilled and professional workforce . Consequently, there is a necessity to involve universities in delivering specific training to the police recruits and set high standards for the qualification of the future officers and for the postgraduate education of superintendents. While being an important characteristic of police professionalism, higher education provides significant benefits to policing as a whole (Sklansky, 2011). Thus, well-trained officers are more intellectually developed and compassionate; moreover, they have better communication skills and pay more attention to the importance of the own ethical conduct.

Recently, some huge changes have been witnessed in the educational patterns. As a result, different options of higher education have become available to the police. This improvement demonstrates a general focus on police professionalization (Sklansky, 2011). For instance, the Initial Police Learning and Development Programme was created with the view to modernizing and professionalizing the police service. One of its primary goals was to ensure a greater flexibility of police service and develop the ability to cooperate with local universities in providing the basic training. Hence, specific programs and the training framework enhance the level of participation of police officers in the higher education, which strive to improve their performance and get a promotion.

The College of Policing, the Code of Ethics, and the Development of Knowledge as Evidence of Police Professionalism

While walking on the educational path, it is important to institutionalize specialized schools of policing. Establishing the College of Policing and the Code of Ethics, as well as developing the police knowledge in general, are the required evidence that demonstrates the momentum for professionalization. Although there are certain advantages of the collaborative work with universities, such step cannot solve all inherent problems. Some scholars argue that police officers consider themselves professional employees; therefore, any debate on their professionalization is inappropriate (Green & Gates, 2014). In such a case, professionalism has to start in frontline workers and not the management.

On the other hand, some researchers argue that experience, rather than the scientific knowledge, is a foundation of efficient policing (Willis, 2013). Interacting with different people in various situations provide patrol officers with practical knowledge and help them develop specific skills that promote their observation, alertness, stress management, rapid analysis, and psychological tactics. As a result, officers try to avoid violence, apply less force, and resolve any conflicts peacefully. Hence, the role of modern policing is being questioned, and some leaders are calling for the Royal Commission. In the light of this issue, the definition of policing as a profession should take into account that professionalism needs to be based on the fundamental objectives of legitimacy and accountability.

The development of a set of values is of considerable importance for the police professionalism. These values will contribute to the evolution of police agencies as a response to the new challenges posed by the rapidly changing society (Flanagan, 2008). While having no limitation in the U.S. system, this new professionalism will be universal as well as efficient in any society.

Four Components of New Professionalism and Implications of Their Incorporation in the U.S. Policing

Across the United States of America, police organizations desire a new model of professionalism. The scholars offer a conceptual framework of this notion that can help administrators, frontline police officers, and the public understand and organize the work of police departments today and in the nearest future (Stone & Travis, 2013). Also, such professionalism can assist police officers in performing their daily duties , contributing to the bigger project of building a better society, and sharing their success with respective communities. The following four elements of a new professionalism (accountability, legitimacy, innovation, and national coherence) are useful tools to be used by police officers and communities they serve.

The Principle of Accountability

According to Jeremy Travis and his colleagues, a police agency that strives to be considered professional has to take charge of all its actions. There were many interpretations of this idea. The scholars are acquainted with “the concept of vertical accountability up the chain of command” (Travis, 2013, p. 5). In their employees, police agencies have always encouraged respect for the authority and recognition of the commanders’ role in making strategic, tactical, and policy decisions about the distribution of resources, as well as the police role in performing the core mission of the service.

On the other hand, scholars that share this view on professionalism have observed new dimensions in the principle of accountability. In most U.S. cities, the government has created other forms of the vertical accountability. Nowadays, police departments are responsible for their actions vis-a-vis courts, legislators, inspectors general, civilian review boards, government auditors, and independent monitors (Stone & Travis, 2013). Although the researchers consider it a positive development, most police departments are uncomfortable with such state of affair. These changes reflect a deeper understanding of the police cooperation that is going to bring a crucial outcome in the most efficient and professional values of an external format of oversight. Finally, applying accountability requires broadening the meaning of this term. In such a manner, the police should be in charge of the society; it means officers have to be responsible for the communities they serve, the victims of any crime, who need their assistance at a time of crisis, criminal suspects, and other citizens, who approach them as trusted law enforcers. Although the implementation of the principle of accountability into everyday operations is the most difficult task for police officers, it is the strongest boost for the evolution of a new approach to policing. By incorporating an ethic of accountability in dealing with the public, officers may win the confidence and trust of people, which are crucial elements of the work of the modern police.

The Principle of Legitimacy

Among numerous concepts of the U.S. and global policing, community policing is one of the most influential ones. Despite various definitions, there is only one common element that is to be used by all officers in their daily duties . It is the principle of legitimacy; nowadays, it is an essential element of the police reform discussion in the USA (Travis, 2013). The commitment to legitimacy means the goal and wish of the police system to do its best in the cooperation and maintenance of communities. The police gets its authority from the law, the state, and the public in every interaction. New professionalism makes a specific emphasis on all sources that help to earn legitimacy, namely the public trust and professional integrity. Thus, with the usage of this principle in policing, police departments can strengthen their legitimacy in the public perception in the USA, as well as win authority in young individuals of all ethnicities and races, without losing their effectiveness.

The Principle of Innovation

The commitment to innovation is the third component of new professionalism. Scholars define a learning organization as a kind of the police agency that is constantly engaged in both self-improvement and self-assessment (Travis, 2013). They also note an essential role of empirical research in new professionalism. In the American context, the most significant innovations in policing consider investigations that researchers offer to independent agencies and universities, while striving to make policing a better institution. Examples of such innovations are the Police Foundation and the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, DC.

As the traditional policing culture has broken; nowadays, the idea of innovation, experimentation, and objective assessment of the police effectiveness is more transparent. Based on the landmark studies, the police system in the United States has embraced modern approaches to its evolution. It serves as a response to appeals for the effective police assistance, as well as complaints about drug markets, domestic or group violence, assignment of officers to foot patrol, applying deadly force, and conducting investigations with the help of eyewitnesses. Such studies are popular both in the United States and beyond. However, this success needs to focus on the innovation and implication of the research in order to maintain police reforms.

As innovation is a basis of new police professionalism, it also emphasizes the role of such higher educational establishments as John Jay College and the Central Police University. In terms of students’ preparation to becoming police officers and leaders, the professors’ commitment to the scholarship, high-level training, and courses of professional development for police executives are crucial elements of the new policing system. Therefore, scholars have s specific responsibility of maintaining such direction and pace of evolution toward the police professionalism in the USA and abroad. Also, the new police professionalism faces some challenges, which stimulate the innovation in terms of the law and ethical values (Stone & Travis, 2013). Applying value statements with the view to managing the behavior of officers instead of the strict enforcement of certain regulations becomes more popular in the field of community policing, problem-solving, disciplinary processes, and collaboration with police executives. As long as police departments encourage and reward innovators with resources, recognition, and promotion, the trend of innovation will continue due to its significant importance to policing in general.

The Principle of the National Coherence

The component of the national coherence can make greater sense in the U.S. context than in other countries as in it, policing is supposed to share definite fundamental values. The implications of applying such principle to the new professionalism mean that each police department in any of fifty states of America will equally engage in promoting accountability, providing legitimacy, and maintaining innovations. Travis and Stone believe that police agencies being situated in any part of the USA will monitor the best practices. Thus, they will be able to reject those forms of policing that will show their ineffectiveness (2013). As a result, this principle is an efficient tool just as other components of new professionalism.

In the U.S. context, the struggle for the national coherence is rather complicated as the American system of the law enforcement is decentralized. It is estimated that over 18,000 police agencies operate in the country (Travis, 2013). Although all of them have to keep within the same law, as well as adopt only those practices that are consistent with the U.S. Constitution, the researchers note that the federal government possesses a little leverage in requiring compliance with the national standards. Thus, the principle of the national coherence is challenging in the U.S. context; thus, any debates on policy are held at the national level. The provided four principles of new police professionalism are not new as other countries have similar intentions and approached. However, the mix of discussed elements ensures the accountability of police developments during the last 20 years, which distinguish the modern system from that of 30 or 100 years ago.

Community Policing as a Part of Shifting to New Professionalism

When new police professionalism started to emerge in the U.S. urban police departments, community policing was considered the organizing framework that utilized a new approach and priorities. Most Americans understand community policing as a form of a specialized program, under which a few officers make efforts in order to cooperate with good citizens, while the rest of police departments does something else. Although community policing is a crucial element of new professionalism, police agencies still have to perform their daily duties; thus, it seems that the old model is still used (Stone, 2012). No holistic approach was provided that could guide patrol officers, as well as inspire the police to deal with the financial fraud, political corruption, or weapon employment.

Despite the idea that community policing is an essential improvement in terms of the policing style, it is important to improve two elements of this initiative. Firstly, back in the 1980s, the community policing was not a professional organization, rather a hard, technocratic, and cynical model of the police system (Stone & Travis, 2013). Moreover, it reinforced pernicious biases that were deeply rooted in the society. Although bad and good police work was done in the same manner, it could hardly be called a professional policing. Secondly, community policing was a part of a new police model that was developed in the 1980s, with the simultaneous advancement of the technology and investigation, as well as the destruction of the organized crime (Stone & Travis, 2013). As increasing community policing is a part of a bigger shift to new police professionalism, there is great hope to protect a good idea of the U.S. professional policing from its distorted model of the middle of the 20th century. Therefore, the future research on police professionalism should focus on outcomes brought by certain elements of new police professionalism, which might contribute to the development of a safer society in the decades ahead.

In the light of the community policing and new professionalism, the second form of policing embraces the respectful engagement of citizens that is the core of the community policing. Besides, the new form of police professionalism has clear expectations, while community policing has such a vague goal that it has already lost its practical meaning (Stone & Travis, 2013). New professionalism focuses on the idea that achieving mutual accountability, legitimacy, innovation, and national coherence can bring policing to a higher level of professionalism, while the community engagement is essential only in terms of accountability and legitimacy.


In the United States, the profession of policing has been influenced by some rapid changes in the national police system. As the role of policing has been criticized in the range of contexts, its proper understanding is quite essential for the safe future of communities and societies. While policing is at the confluence of the public, the state, and societal currents that shape the modern history, it is important to develop an advanced and highly professional police system that will ensure respectful relations between citizens and the state. Implementing a new form of police professionalism will help in achieving the primary goal. Implications of utilizing four principles of accountability, innovation, legitimacy, and national coherence will be significant to both the police and the public as the mix of these elements is a right path towards decreasing the crime level, enhancing the public protection, and improving the police conduct across the USA and the globe. The analysis of the status the U.S. policing after incorporating new professionalism, identifying its strengths and weaknesses are the main directions of the future research in this field of study.

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